By Erato Vaitsi and Naomi Kimmerling
In geography class, students studying migration were given the following brief:
You will imagine yourself in the role of a refugee/migrant who has relocated from one part of the world to another.
Some of you will “experience” forced migration as refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing, while others will “move” across the United States as a result of a mandatory career change. Each scenario has some sort of push/pull factor that is driving the migration. In either case, your job is to research in detail the many factors that are involved in a migration.
Your research should address 3 primary questions:
Where are you coming from?
Why are you moving?
How is your life different since your move?
The students had great entries, two of them are featured below.
1. Erato Vaitsi
“The movement that changed my life.”
It’s been so long since I got to write. For the first time in two years it seems as if my luck has smiled at me. I do not know how it happened but on the muddy floor of the refugee camp where I am obliged to stay because of the war, I found this empty notebook. Zain Kamar’s diary…that’s what I will be calling this notebook. I hope one day people in other places get to read it so they can realize how fortunate they are. Us Syrian refugees, live a life of terror, hiding and constant looks over our shoulder. Here in our refugee camp life conditions are inconceivable. There’s not enough food or water to even sustain half of us, many of us are stuck here therefore there’s barely enough space for anybody and we are suffering of huge lack of medicine. My sister wa suffering from fever, vomiting and pains for a month. All we could do was wait so more medicines arrive, since there were more serious cases. Before the war, everyone was fullof joy. Now it’s been about nine months since the last time I saw my mother happy. It was my little sister’s; Yasmina’s birthday. She turned 5 years old…no kid that age should have to see war and its whole life getting torn apart. My parents are worried for me and my other 5 siblings. They want to send me and my two twelve-year-old twin sisters away, to Greece so we can earn money and bring them to Greece too. We have a very limited amount of money so only three of us can travel. My parents want to send us, because we are their eldest children and we are able of working. They don’t want to be the ones migrating because they despise the thought of leaving us alone at this packed, and not completely safe camp. I do not know what to think or do…
The war gets worse day by day. There are bombings, killings, people are traumatized, I AM traumatized, fear is everywhere. Before the war, my parents used to own a supermarket. I helped out sometimes and parallel I went to school. My dream is to become a lawyer. I guess that’s not possible now since I am not getting any kind of education anymore. My parents used to earn 1300000-1400000 syrian pounds per year (2500-3000 USD) until the war started. Then financials were a lost cause we were getting poorer and poorer. One day a bomb was dropped really close to where the supermarket is. That’s when my parents decided to flee to a refugee camp. Our country never provided us with proper papers. We don’t have visas, or passports and at this point of time we cannot get those things. Rasha, my beloved mom, is looking to get us out of the country through an illegal path. There is this man, Adnan, he has my dad’s name, that transports refugees with a boat from Syria to Greece. Today was the day that my mom told me she had made up her mind. Me, Selda and Yana (my twin sisters) are going to flee with that boat to Greece. An involuntary, illegal decision but there really is no other way.
6/10/15 7:15 in the morning
Our parents have packed our things. I don’t feel ready to leave yet. There’s so many things that I do not want to let go of, but there’s so many that are pushing me out of the country.
The war makes me feel threatened every day, we have no home, not enough food and water, our refugee camp is so unsanitary. I cannot survive like this. We are under threat constantly.
The reason we want to migrate to Greece is because it is close, therefore we do not have to travel on the boat for long. Greece offers us a chance to start fresh, we can find better job than in Syria, the education is better, there is no war… The political, social, and financial situations in Syria are much worse than in Greece. In Greece there’s less corruption than in Syria, there is no war, it is not a common ground for countries to battle on, we are not under constant threat and therefore not under constant uncertainty. I assure you if we had a chance we would be in our house, altogether, joyful like we used to be. In two hours we are leaving.
9:30 in the morning
We are getting on the small boat along with another 20 desperate immigrants that are looking to get out of the country as fast as possible. We are stacked one on top of the other. My family and I are in tears. I decided to make a promise to my mom: I will bring us altogether, we will all live in Greece. The boat took off, and in between all the other refugees in tears, me and my two twin sisters waved goodbye to the rest of the family.
After a long trip yesterday night, we finally arrived to Greece. Me and my sisters, along with the other refugees went to a shelter. The trip was terrible. Our boat nearly flipped over 6-7 times, many people were puking, and there was no space for anybody. Since these migrations are illegal no NGOs are involved, and that’s why the conditions are so unbearable. In the end we got to Greece okay, so that’s what matters. Here at the shelter, the conditions are much better than the refugee camp. Throughout the day my sisters and I went to look for work. We have been talking about what we are going to do. Tomorrow we will start by selling tissues at stop lights. The little money we have, that our parents gave to us when we left, we will use to buy a few packets of tissues. We have also been thinking about using some packets from the shelter. I do not like this, in fact, I hate it. All I can do about it is work, work, work, so I can get my family here.
The past two weeks, I have been working as hard as humanly possible. At first I was trying
for a waiter but quickly I realized I would have to overcome the language barrier, and I do not have the time or resources to do that. It’s also really hard to get situated due to a cultural
barrier. My sisters wear hijabs and we get a lot of stares from people and hear most likely
racist comments as we pass by. Greece is beautiful country, surely at a better situation than
Syria. I have made twomain observations: all the buildings are made from concrete and it is
quite dirty, just like Syria. The bins are full up to the top, and the smell of garbage surrounds
some areas. Even so, I feel fortunate to be here even though I want to go back home. Tomorrow i start my new job as a cleaner. Now I value school. Working, especially in such a
terrible job is nothing like going to school.
I have not been able to write at all. My sisters and I are constantly working and we are so close to achieving the amount of money needed to get my parents and three other siblings here with us. During the past two months, I have been facing constant language obstacles but I have managed to learn a few words in Greek. I also have been facing a fair bit of racism because of my skin color. Since the move, despite feeling different, my life has changed to the better. I live in a sanitary shelter, and I am given enough food and water. I have been missing my country but I am able to acknowledge the fact that I am better off here. One day I will go back. I have also been sending some letters to my parents with the boat that takes and brings immigrants and my sisters have been adjusting really well. They are speaking a little Greek, they got jobs of their own… Everything seems to be going right. When the rest of the of my family comes here we will be able to start a new, fresh life and finally be content.
2. Naomi Kimmerling
"The Daily News Letter"
The journey of a Syrian girl who's life changed and will never
be the same.
My name is Aïscha Kouri, I am 15 years old and this is my story.
The war started in 2011 and I was 10 at that time, as was my twin sister Uri, my older brother Aimar was 12 and my baby sister, Rasha, was only 2. In 2013 we had to evacuate. My papa was asked to fight for Syria and my mama and brother, who was only 14, had to help my sisters and I move. I remember the bad people coming to our neighbourhood and hurting my friend’s families. My best friend’s dad was handicapped and the bad men took it to their advantage and hurt him, they hurt him a lot and they laughed about it. They made it a game whilst my family and my best friend’s family cried and screamed. It was awful, as we ran away we could here him beg for his life and it made my best friend cry, it made all of us cry I could not believe they were doing this to our friend who was a father and a husband and very kind man, all that was wrong with him was that he was handicapped. If we didn’t hurry we would have probably been hurt too since there was no man to protect us anymore. My brother was there but if he was found he would have been taken to fight for them. Our papa got called out two days before we left and he gave my mama a note with contact information of a second cousin in Cyprus that we could hopefully stay with.
We did a lot of walking and Aimar and mama took turns carrying Rasha as she found it very hard to walk with such little chubby legs. Rasha was the only thing that could keep us smiling and have hope when we were cold and tired, she would have the cutest little giggle and would laugh about the way a tiny little worm would wriggle around in the mud and she got us all laughing and smiling at her innocence. It made my mama cry though, happy and sad. Happy because her baby was the light in our dark path but sad because she realised that her little Rasha would not have an education and she could already barely talk so it would almost be impossible to learn an other language in Cyprus. We hoped our great cousin would get us an education, a home and be our new “father”.
A few years later, when I was 13 and my brother was 15, we managed to get seats on a boat to Cyprus. It had been two years already since ISIS took Raqqa and a year since they made it their capital. They still wouldn't stop fighting though and were still kidnapping young boys to fight in their armies.
So far no one had died since my friend’s papa had and we hadn't heard anything from my farther so we had all assumed him dead a while ago. My best friend had broken her wrist whilst jumping off a rock trying to make Rasha laugh, but otherwise apart from sprains and cuts no one had been badly hurt.
I remember the night my father left very clearly. That was a very emotional night, we all realised that we were never going to see him again and Rasha would probably never remember his face, but the person who was most upset, if not my mama, was Aimar. He was papa’s only son and he would have been taught so much from my father but he couldn't now, he had to be the man of the family at only the age of 12. We all had to grow up fast, but Aimar grew up the fastest.
One day before going on the boat to Cyprus we were raided and all that the enemies wanted were young boys to sacrifice in their war. They didn't even want to use their own people, they were too precious to them. That showed they were not worth our country. What is a conquered country if it has no inhabitants?
Aimar was 15 and he was the perfect age for them, he fought and fought but they were too strong and too many and they threatened to kill Uri if he didn't come. My mama screamed and screamed for her only son but they weren't having it. They struck me across the face to prove a point and mama fell silent. My brother was then taken by the arms and legs whilst screaming and crying for mama to save him, but she couldn't as now there was a man with a gun to my mama’s head who was threatening to shoot. I got very mad and I could feel my heart pumping very fast with adrenaline that was just pure hatred and anger. That adrenaline got me to stand up and walk towards the man holding my mama down, but before I could have my moment I was knocked out cold by another man I
didn't know was behind me.
I woke up in a small tent that smelt of rotting eggs and I felt a very sore bump on the back of my head and very painful cheek, that was covered by a dirty bandage. It took me a while to remember what had happened before I arrived in that tent but when I did I kept on shouting “Aimar ! Aimar!” until my sister Uri told me to calm down. She told me we had missed the boat to Cyprus but that it was okay because they would not have let us stay there anyway.
Our next option was to go to turkey.
It took two years to get to turkey, we found a camp in Antakya that was friendly enough to lend us three beds. Uri and I in one, mama and Rasha in another and my friend and her mum in the third.
One day we found a package from the same person who’s name was on the contact information my father gave us. It held 150,000 Syrian pounds which was 1,125.35 Turkish Lira, enough to buy us a very small studio apartment in the city. That was the day of my brother’s 17th birthday and it was the perfect present. My birthday was the 21st of October and Uri and I are now 15. We haven't found a school yet but I am trying to teach Rasha the alphabet and how to write her name. My mama is very depressed because she lost both her boys and has to look after us all alone. I pray for my papa and brother and sometimes my friend’s father every night and I look for jobs
every day. So far none have come up but the money our second cousin gave us was very helpful and we are very thankful for him to have done that.
I have no friends here except for my best friend from home and our neighbour who had the same sought of journey as us, only less losses, and the language is very hard to learn immediately but I’m sure that it will catch on in a few months. We are six women living in a 5 by 4 meter studio and it can get very stuffy, even in the winter. This place is very different to our home in Syria, which was average size with three rooms and a kitchen. Now we all live in the same room which is also our living room and our kitchen.
I miss home and I hope papa and Aimar are in a happier place.
By Aïscha Kouri, age 15
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